DOVER — Mykele Young-Sanders grew up around track & field practices.
His mom, Candy Young, is the former women’s track coach at Delaware State.
One day, when Mykele was about eight, he decided to try going over the hurdles.
“It was just different,” Mykele remembered. “It was just something that not everybody could do. You could jump far, that’s cool. You could throw far, that’s cool. And everybody could run.
“But can you go over these and run at the same time? That was intriguing to me.”
Maybe, there was a little bit of genetics involved, too. Candy Young was a world-class hurdler who was a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team.
Now a senior at Dover High, Mykele Young-Sanders has grown into one of the most accomplished hurdlers the state has ever seen.
With the two-day DIAA track & field state championships beginning today at Dover at 3 p.m., Young-Sanders will be trying to win his fourth straight state title in the Division I 300-meter hurdles.
Even with all the great runners that the Senators’ program has produced, no one has won four state championships in one event.
Furthermore, between the 300 and 110 hurdles outdoors, the Meet of Champions and the 55-meter hurdles indoors, Young-Sanders has won a total of 12 state-level hurdle titles in his high school career. The senior has a chance to add four more to that impressive collection this week.
“I’m just grateful that I had the opportunity to coach him,” said Dover coach Jim Solomon. “It’s a great experience.
“It’s just like poetry in motion,” the veteran coach said about Young-Sanders’ technique. “As a hurdler, you want to work on something new every year. You’re not going to be perfect — especially in high school. You’ll have some flaws there. And every year he’s gotten better in areas where he was weak.”
Candy Young remembers being thrilled when her son first discovered the hurdles.
The problem at first, though, was he was simply too short.
“I’m like, ‘It’s too high, it’s too high,’” Young recalled. “He didn’t care. He’d run at it and then he’d realize it was too high and he’d duck underneath it. Eventually, I created it so that it would be low enough for him to actually go over it. You could tell that, ‘He’s going to love this.’ When I saw his love for hurdling. ... I was like, ‘OK, this is my hurdler.’”
Young-Sanders’ bid to become a four-time state champion in the 300 hurdles almost ended before it got started, however.
As a freshman in the state meet, he fell in the 110 hurdle finals, which were held before the 300.
“That was a crazy day,” said Young-Sanders. “I was excited and then that (the fall) happened. ‘Am I going to bounce back? Am I going to be a freshman who wins the state title? Can this happen today?’ And then that 300-meter hurdle race just went exactly, I guess, how God planned it. It all worked out. I was excited.”
Young-Sanders has lowered his winning time in the 300 hurdles from 39.02 seconds as a freshman to 38.79 a year ago. His personal-record time of 37.85 seconds came in the 2013 Meet of Champions.
That time also ties Young-Sanders for the school record that former great Ukee Washington set in the event in 1976. It’s also the fifth-best 300-hurdle time in state history.
But while Young-Sanders’ may be leaving behind an impressive individual legacy, Solomon said the youngster has always been about the team first. After winning the indoor team state championship this winter, the Dover boys are trying to capture their first outdoor Division I state crown since 2004.
A year ago, the Senators finished second — by 10 points — to state champion Caesar Rodney.
“As good as he is, he will take time out to teach,” said Solomon. “That’s what’s so special about Mike. He’s a born teacher. He loves the sport.”
“What I tell them (his teammates) all the time is, if everybody does their part, a state championship is right there,” said Young-Sanders. “I just plan on doing my part and doing the best I can.”
But Young-Sanders also knows that winning a fourth state championship would put him in a special group. It would give him some bragging rights with his mom, who was also a four-time state champion in Pennsylvania.
Candy Young remembers seeing something special in her son when he first tried to run the hurdles.
“I didn’t know how talented he was until I saw how relentless he was,” she said. “He just had this determination that he was going to try it. I was like, ‘But you’re too little.’ And that never seemed to cross his mind.”
“It just shows a lot of hard work that my coach has poured out into me and dedication to the sport,” Young-Sanders said about the chance to win four state crowns. “As a freshman, that was one of the things I really, really wanted to do, just for myself. I wanted to make a statement. Now that it’s actually coming true, it’s something that I’m really proud of.”
Sports editor Andy Walter can be reached at 741-8227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.